A new political parties law recently legislated by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has stirred considerable controversy and given rise to debate with some political pundits describing it as “a step forward and two steps back.”
Some have criticized one clause in the law, which sets a minimum of 5,000 members as a pre-condition for establishing a party, with at least 300 members from 10 governorates, as being too restrictive. Previous pre-conditions stipulated a minimum of 1,000 members.
Professor of political science Samer Soliman says the new law has prospectively made it more challenging for some parties to get off the ground.
“Five thousand for the party is too much,” Soliman said.
While Soliman thinks that this prerequisite is not a problem for his party – the new “Egyptian Democratic Social Party” – he forecasts that it may hinder other new grassroots groups.
According to Ahmed Douma, a 22-year-old member of the Justice and Freedom group, no new party can meet these requirements in time for the parliamentary elections.
“I do not think any of the youth movements who want to engage in independent political activities will be able to achieve this without help or patronage from someone,” said Douma, who had attempted to form a party called Al Itihad Al Qawmi [The National Union].
According to the new law, the committee that is responsible for approving political parties now is a judicial committee which must approve or reject applications within 30 days. Appeals of the committee’s ruling will then be passed on to the Supreme Administrative Court for a final decision.
Under the Mubarak regime, most applications were rejected by the Political Parties Affairs Committee.
Another stumbling block is the removal of the previous funding clause, which under the Mubarak regime, entitled every approved party an EGP 10,000 grant.
“I think they are trying to restrict the leadership of the parties and the financial burden, with the government subsidies cancelled, is intended in a way,” Reem El Refaie, a political science sophomore, said.
In the post-revolution period, AUCians remain divided over their engagement in the political process.
“I’m not interested and I don’t intend to join any party but this is not a must for me to be politically aware,” Marwan Morsy, a freshman, said.
But Marc Onsy, an electronics engineering junior, said he is enthusiastic to join a party.
Maybe the ‘Egyptian Democratic Social Party’ or the ‘Free Egyptians,’” he said.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in September.